I hope you are all receiving emails from the Coalition about legislation and MTC activities! I want to thank MTRPA for allowing me to represent MTRPA on the Coalition Board.
- Authority is needed for SB 24, the new Montana Trails Stewardship Grant Program. FWP will request authority as part of their appropriations request and we will support. The legislative fiscal note for this program anticipated $950,000 but actual income in the first year totals $1,250,000. This indicates broad acceptance by Montana’s public!
- Possible language changes for SB 24: Unfortunately SB 24 did not specifically mention equipment but did specifically include maintenance as a use of these funds. FWP legal staff advised that equipment can’t be funded. I have talked with State Parks leadership and Senator Gauthier, SB 24 sponsor, and equipment was certainly in legislative intent. Senator Gauthier and I will meet with FWP legal staff to attempt a reversal. If that is unsuccessful, Senator will introduce a small amendment to solve that issue.
- Great Americans Outdoors Act. MTC and MTRPA submitted letters to Congressman Gianforte requesting his support and he replied positively. Subsequently the Act passed and signed by the President. FWP advises that Montana’s share of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will increase to $2 million per year. Yea!
- Congress extended the transportation FAST Act for one year. It maintains 2020 funding levels and does not contain any of the increased funding passed by the House of Representatives this summer in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. Both the Recreational Trails Program and Transportation Enhancements should stay the same for now.
- I 190 and CI 118 would legalize recreational marijuana. If the Montana public approves these measures, the associated tax estimate would yield $18 million for conservation and recreation with 4.1% to trails & 4.1% state parks.
- At a request from Fish, Wildlife & Parks, I am reviewing Guidelines and application materials for SB 24, the new Montana Trails Stewardship Act.
- MTC is co-hosting the 2020 Virtual Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit, Oct. 13 – 15. We participated in a webinar last week promoting the event. For detailed information, go to https://whova.com/web/mboor_202009/.
- The Interim Transportation Committee directed Transportation Director Mike Tooley to establish a committee to study funding alternatives for shared use paths. I was asked to supply to them the alternatives MTC studied in 2018 for SB 24 and have provided that information to the committee.
- Forward weekly webinars from American Trails and Rails-To-Trails Conservancy.
Looking Forward to 2021
We will watch closely the legislature’s activities concerning the recreational marijuana proposition approved by the public. The proposal included approximately 1 million dollars per year for each of state parks, and for the trail stewardship grant program that will provide dollars to cities, towns, counties, private associations and reservations for trails and associated facilities.
We will also follow HB 2 and HB 5. HB 2 includes appropriations for operations of state parks and others, and HB 5 provides appropriations for capital projects including authority for the Trail Stewardship Grants Program, Recreational Trails Program, Land and Water Conservation Fund and capital projects in state parks.
I will again provide bi-weekly legislative reports identifying bills before the legislature that affect parks and recreation and include times and locations of committee meetings addressing those bills.
Bob Walker, Chair, Montana Trails Coalition and Advisor, MTRPA